Perspective: The Church as God's Answer to the ISIS Crisis

With the worst refugee crisis since WWII and at a time when over half of the U.S. governors are rejecting Syrian refugees for fear of ISIS, we have to ask ourselves: What is the place of the Church?

'Til now, political analysts have been the main voices interpreting “the facts.” They speak in terms of demographic explosion, poverty, alienation, historical grievances, and they speak of religion as a dangerous force harnessing emotional and irrational powers. Those are the glasses through which we are to view and understand the "other." They drive the “we know what is going on” narrative, and their storyline is seldom contested.

What is missing? The passionate and relentless voices of the prophets of old, for one thing! People of God who discerned the ways in which spiritual forces were at play, and who could explain the unexpected ways in which God remained engaged in their convoluted world. Prophets who exposed fear and deception, and boldly invited God to take center stage.

Our voice is missing . . . the Church’s counter-cultural narrative has gone silent. How come our response is not different from the rest of society? Could it be that we also have put our trust in the next presidential candidate? Is the government our savior? Let’s be clear, no presidential contender, no matter how religious his views are, can replace God’s church.

The solution for the refugee and terrorist crisis is the Church. The Church is God’s answer to the millions of prayers reaching out to Him from the quivering lips of Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi people. The Church also understands the principles that sustain Satan’s government: fear of the other, deception, destruction, and death. These can only be defeated with God’s good. Not just managed, but defeated; for the answer to any deathly ideology is the Kingdom of God tearing down every other false kingdom.

Upon us God has bestowed his Son’s authority to challenge every nationalistic or utopian narrative which promises peace and security away from God’s appointed way: Jesus. This is an opportunity for the Church’s finest hour. The darker the night, the brighter the light shines.

Till now, the Church and the American society have been coexisting comfortably with each other. After all, at the heart of this great nation we find that biblical principles, and Christian mores have shaped the very institutions that gave the US its particular identity among other nations (democratic vision, the generous spirit of its constitution, its national institutions and laws, etc.).

This is changing though, as highlighted by the recent decision from the Supreme Court of Justice to redefined marriage. One thing is clear, whatever your views are, the one thing we cannot do is to sit blindly and grieve for “the good old times”. God’s people should expect that as the time for the return of Jesus gets closer, the divide between secular America and the Church will become grow.

Is ISIS Winning? At the very heart of the ideological appeal of ISIS, there is a warped theology and eschatology that promises “God’s Kingdom” in a Muslim homeland. This is a kingdom that the “believers” are rallied to “bring down” with their own hands, even bloodied hands if need it be. Violence and death are not the aim, but rather the costly price to pay in the way to self-made theocracy. The end justifies any means.

ISIS is built on an eschatological vision which sees Islam victorious after a massive Armageddon type of war. The media is unable to fully understand the theological underpinning for this ideological movement because it no longer takes religious beliefs seriously. God is assumed to be a personal choice, powerless to feature in the public arena, so the interpretation of what is going on is missing a critical dimension: ISIS particular view of how history started and how it ends.

Dabiq, which is the name of their slick magazine, was named after a town in Syria where ISIS supporters expect to see the final war. Their strategy is clear:

“…compel the Crusaders to actively destroy the gray zone themselves. . . Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize. . . or they [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the Crusader governments and citizens."

ISIS is counting on a small number of terrorist attacks shifting the way by which European and American societies views its more than 50 million Muslims. If American Muslims are suddenly perceived as potential threats, (a fifth column), this will impact the way in which Muslims in the West view themselves: as victims of discrimination and therefore needing to protect themselves.

When this happens, we play into ISIS social engineering strategy that seeks to polarize the world into two camps: ISIS a place of safety for Muslims (to where Muslims are encouraged to emigrate to), and the rest of the world, the land of the infidel, where Muslims are under threat. Yet it is important to know, the Syrian refugees are not fleeing from the territory Assad controls, they are fleeing from ISIS controlled lands.

This means that every Muslim refugee who is welcomed among us deeply undercuts the Islamic State's vision and narrative in two ways. First, it proves that we do not buy into the fear of ISIS’s strategy. Second, refuges that have suffered under ISIS barbaric violence, are better positioned to challenge its illegitimate promises of a place of peace and security. Their stories tell of horror, rape, hate, slavery and devastating destruction. Potential recruits in the West, who may be entertaining utopic dreams of Islamic greatness, may come face to face with the hideous reality that ISIS is a cult to death.

Is ISIS wining? It depends on how many will cave into fear and unwittingly support their “two layered” vision of the world. Let’s be clear, terrorism is not about killing per se but terror. ISIS carefully stages its barbaric acts to create maximum fear, and fear is the indispensable ingredient for their recipe on how to exercise control. No fear, no ISIS, for without fear ISIS will starve to death.

This is where the Church can step in. For we have faith in Jesus who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Whatever is born of God overcomes the world and this is the victory that has overcome the world our faith (1 John 5:4). We are not to live in fear but to advance His Kingdom by faith.

Contrarily, have you noted how many political decisions are taking place in a climate of fear? Fear is never a good advisor, but who will speak up? Who will expose reactionary measures as weak? As people of faith we ought to respond from a position of moral strength, away from revenge and hipped emotions.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). A sound mind comes not from reacting in fear, but from the boldness under the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31) and the love that proceeds from God.

ISIS has concocted a powerful narrative that combines: community, love of power and global domination, safe space for Sunni Muslims under the protection of a powerful caliph, God’s approval for those keeping up to the “letter of the law’, and a personal sense of fulfillment and meaning as a “history maker”. This is true for disenfranchised and powerless youth who believer that they can change the destiny of Islam with a Kalashnikov in one hand, and God’s banner in the other.

The Muslim community seem at loss, confused. Much of their leadership has denounced ISIS in every possible way, and explained that ISIS does not represent how Muslims have historically understood their faith. We should take them seriously. But in the end, the fact is that no one has ever defeated darkness by cursing the night. This war is ideological, and no amount of denunciation, nor drones will decisively end it. Muslim leaders, security forces, and politicians are all at loss for ideas for defeating ISIS, but the Church is not!

The Gospel as A Story to Inhabit We, the Church, have no reason to be grasping at society's solutions; Scripture issues this call: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Just as light pushes away the darkness, so the truth about God and his Kingdom is the story that can counteract ISIS narrative. In the end, before the coming of Jesus there will be two sides: God’s people, driven by the love of God, and those who oppose God and are driven by fear and love of power.

The Gospel is not one story among many, the Gospel is “The Story”, which calls every other story into judgment. The problem is that many have reduced the Gospel to information, truthful information, but information in the end. When this happens, the Gospel becomes powerless, it looses its relational and community building dimension. Thus, when it no longer drives our views about reality, and right or wrong, then our culture does.

We need to recover the Gospel as a story to inhabit, the power of God that transforms lives, and boldly present it before our dying world. God in Christ healing the world, reconciling it to himself. God winning the world’s allegiance back from a position of apparent weakness, as a “cruciform” God. God empowering the believer with a power that originates in him and that is truly transformational. Muslims all over the world have expressed how irresistible to their longing hearts is the “Sermon on the Mount”. They are captivated by the father who receives his prodigal son (Luke 15). The person of Jesus brings new life, and how they are yearning to be part of a community as the one described in Acts 2.

Hamid, not his real name, desisted from joining ISIS after being exposed to the message of God’s Kingdom and his Constitution as described in Matthew 5. Today he is a peace activist. Hamid’s Muslim friends invited a Christ follower to help them where they failed. Hamid found in the Kingdom of God a better and more real story.

A Call to Action What does this mean? I want to suggest that the Church is the answer to the ISIS ideological crisis and to the refugee crisis.

The Church’s message is not to focus on how misguided ISIS supporters are, but to offer a better story; one in which God is truly the Lord, and transformation in Christ. One in which victory is guaranteed because it is not rooted in humankind’s frail efforts, but in God’s love that was made visible at the cross of Christ. We also have a different ending in which God, and not Satan, takes center stage, and this is the source of our hope.

The Church is also the welcoming arms to which God thrust his hurting people to receive healing in practical ways. When society fears them, the Church is God’s shelter. Recently a Muslim refugee, Abdul Wahab, told me this:

“I thought we were emigrating to America, but now I know we were emigrating to God. You (followers of Jesus) have helped us to know how to live like godly people in America. You see we come from many years of being bottled up in the Middle East and then we come here and we no not how to manage this freedom. In America Satan is quicker than God in getting us. Please continue to help my people to remain in the side of God.”

This is the Church’s privilege, this could be our finest hour. Let us seek to bring Jesus to these refugees and the other Muslims living among us.

Gabriela Profeta Phillips is Director for Adventist Muslims Relations for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Please see the video which has been posted over on the Lounge to see how the church in the Southeastern California Conference is demonstrating the Gospel in very practical ways.

They are helping the refugees to assimilate by teaching them English, helping with housing, finding employment, with food and clothing and more. The Church is God’s hands offering help to those in need. Only by actually giving help to those most in need are we doing His work. Why can’t this be promoted by the leadership as a welcome to those refugees who will be coming to our shores?

You lose an enemy when you make them your friend. ISIS is always ready to recruit the disgruntled and discouraged.


When Gabriela says, “The Church”.
Is she talking about Protestants and Catholics [Christianity] as working together to forge a New Union of Cooperation of Presenting God, Presenting Christ to the World, and the United States and Canada in particular?
OR, is she meaning ONLY the Seventh day Adventist Church?
If she is meaning The First, WHERE do SDAs stand in this mix of Apostate Protestantism and The Beast?
As presented in our most famous book, The Great Controversy?
IS the Seventh day Adventist Church group to mesh itself into this “The Church” United?

I am OK with this, but it would sound like Total Heresy and out of control thinking by those who read and believe the Great Controversy as it reads. Some would say, The Jesuits have REALLY taken over the Church if this happened.

As an article here on Seventh day Adventist Spectrum Magazine, this is not very clear.
PS-- This also means the Church-House would need to be open for business seven [7] days a week. Most SDA church buildings are only open 4 hours on Sabbath, 2 hours on Wednesday evening. Closed and locked the other 162 hours of the week.


I read the essay as speaking to the Church of which Christ is the High Priest and Lord of Lords, which is beyond denominational lines. Thus the essay is address each one of us. Christainity trumps culture no matter what Donald or Ben says. tom Z


From a theological perspective, it is to be recognized that ISIS is an apocalyptic sect within Islam. Apocalypticism has an intrinsic violent element in it because it builds its case for justice on the notion that God is at war. This should be a warning to Christian apocalytic sects which also glorify martyrdom. Just as Seventh-day Adventists tried desperately to disassociate themselves from the Branch Davidians at Wako, muslims disassociate themselves from ISIS. Still, these events should be a wake-up call to all Christians with an apocalyptic symbolic universe. Many Christians are challenging Muslim claims that Islam is a religion of peace. They should review Christian history and then claim that Christianity has been a religion of peace as it has manifested itself through history. It is high time for Christians to stand up for a Christianity that promotes peace.


Excellent analysis. This is indeed ISIS’s demented strategy and plotting. Reactionary, irrational, generalized fear and then ostracism of Muslims in general only supports ISIS’s prophecy. Open armed, compassionate acceptance of those fleeing anarchy and chaos in their homelands will defy the narrative of ISIS. Let us do all we can to spin the narrative in favor of Christian selflessness in service to fellow human beings in need.


“Till now, the Church and the American society have been coexisting comfortably with each other. After all, at the heart of this great nation we find that biblical principles, and Christian mores have shaped the very institutions that gave the US its particular identity among other nations (democratic vision, the generous spirit of its constitution, its national institutions and laws, etc.).”

I am not inclined to agree with this statement. Our nation was not founded solely upon “Christian” principles but rather by others such as the principles of the “Enlightenment”. So, to say that “democratic vision” comes from Christianity might be a stretch.


This is a strong step in the right direction. But is it a facile answer to a very deep problem?
In the past. the SDA church has rebuffed efforts by progressive pastors and others to form strong links with the Muslim community. I remember, for example, when Muhammad Ali offered a large sum of money to Andrews University to help build a center of mutual understanding, but was refused. Despite the fact that the church has accepted large sums from Saudi, Jordanian and other entities in the past, and at other times has resisted efforts to create ongoing constructive dialogue with Muslims, there can be a new way forward. I am glad that Dan Jackson posted an essay in Huff Post today opening the church’s heart to Muslim refugees. But the blinders have to come off, and SDA members should never be heard echoing the political and racist crap that comes out of the mouths of Republican candidates these days.

Adventists must embrace Muslims as children of God, celebrate our commonalities, and act as Jesus would do toward refugees and others from Arabic-speaking countries. The church is not God’s single answer to the ISIS problem, but it can help reach moderate Muslims and help build peace in the world.


Thanks Gabriela!

Thanks for reminding us of the following:

Yes, the Gospel we teach is the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” the Kingdom Christ died and yet lives to establish in the individual lives of believers. This kingdom, unlike the beastly and this worldly kingdoms, is from above. This kingdom even now is unseating the Usurper from the hearts and minds of people, one life at a time. The battle of the good kingdom from above against the evil kingdoms and strongholds from below was most fully joined in the ministry of our Saviour and Lord and continues to this day. Here believers within the church of God are impelled by the Spirit of God, the Vicar of Christ, to point people to the transformative reign of God. Such believers are to assist in the establishment of beachheads through which the final assults against the evil strongholds of this world will be conducted.

In the time since San Bernadino, Adventists of all people have been presented with a platform to present Christ and the power of His Love as opposed to the love and lust for power of every earthly stronghold. Hidden within the weakness of the very dying form of our Saviour was His strength and power to save. Let’s proclaim this in our service to all, and in our speaking the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Gabriela is not the only one thinking along the lines of Jesus Christ:

The Blood of American Christianity Will Be The Seed Of The Church

Pass the Peace!

I am understanding that “Church” here is referring to Christ’s Church, not a particular denomination.

Catholics have had a strong network to help refugees for ages, everywhere.
A great service by SDAs can be seen here in this video I posted in the Lounge. (Anyone can access the lounge. Those who can’t yet, just drop a post here directed to @JaredWright and he will open the shut door… lol

Check the video, you will love it.


As Christians, we should be more concerned about faithfulness not effectiveness; we need to take our marching orders from the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, and we should not be blinded to think that a destruction of our enemies through violence will actually conquer evil. And I’m certainly glad that Jesus has not destroyed me—even though I too have had times when I have been His enemy.

“What should we do with ISIS,” I’m always reluctant to answer until I know what they mean by “we.” Does it refer to our USA identity or our Christian one? The two are not the same; they are very different. Strangely, Christians in the USA often use “we” to refer to their national identity rather than their Christian identity. I don’t know what to do with ISIS. The current crisis defies simple answers. So I will give neither a patriotic nor nonviolent tirade about the most effective solution to the problem. Instead, I’ll offer the two ideas that I feel strongly about and that I can bring in a biblical text with a good degree of confidence.

First, destroying ISIS is not the same as destroying evil. America could nuke every terrorist to hell and Satan would walk away untouched. Satan doesn’t need ISIS. Perhaps he’s using them, but I suspect he’s putting more energy—as an angel of light—into moralistic, consumer driven, power hungry religious movements that are covered in a thin veneer of Christianity. Or, Satan could use the false notion of “world peace” to steal what belongs to Christ. In any case, our real fight is NOT with flesh and blood. We cannot fight a non-flesh and blood enemy with flesh and blood weapons. It doesn’t work. You can’t hit him. Fighting against evil with flesh and blood weapons is like punching the fog, shooting a cloud, shooting pool with a rope

Second, regardless of what the nations should do (or will do), the church’s mission is different. Even if the nations wage war against other nations, the church’s identity is one of peacemaking and healing. And the hundreds of thousands of refugees and families ripped apart by violence need both healing and peace. The church’s first response should not be, “how can we blow up ISIS,” but how can we be Jesus to those suffering from violence. Christ’s Church (his people) is continually represented under the figure of an army, yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition.


This article is all one sided…It is all about the Muslims…but not about the Christian minorities that are systematically tortured, raped, slaughtered, crucified…our nation has consistently denied refugee status to our Christian brothers…When I see Spectrum and our NAD SDA churches call for our nation to open the doors to the oppressed Christian minority then their message for God’s Answer to the ISIS Crisis will be incredible…When I read an article of how a refugee boat of Syrians were in the open seas fleeing the area when they discovered that there were Christian refugees among them, they threw all the Christians overboard, young and old, women and children with infants…Is this what we want for the Church to be God’s Answer to the ISIS Crisis???


Elaine, I remember seeing the video (in the Lounge) but did not have time to watch it. Your comment reminded so I thought I’d go now…but, the article seems to be gone?


Never mind. George seems to have posted it for us. I was looking for the wrong story. Thanks @GeorgeTichy

Wow! I could literally feel my heart swell inside with joy while viewing that. I dare anyone to watch that video and still be a proponent of refusing all refugees. For those who cannot get into the Lounge I will post the video here.

Refugee Relief

Imagine that you have no family, no home–no country! What would you do? Thousands of people find themselves in such a place–in the United States. They get off of a plane or a boat with nothing. The Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in National City, Calif., has found their calling in helping refugees find new hope, healing, a sense of community, and more. For more details visit:


Dear brother Grame Sharrock, I loved your valued creed, color, race inclusion. Short and sweet. Here is the noble thing to do, fickled Adventists apologize, henceforth, lay the foundation for future offense.

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